Apr 24, 2015

Give It An Asian Flair - Creamy Coconut Chicken and Veggie Stew

The Indonesian lady taught my mom a simple coconut stew recipe. Basically you sear the shallots with some salt, add in the protein along with other veggies, and then finish the dish with some coconut milk. The seasonings used were pretty simple, mainly salt and perhaps a few dashes of fish sauce for extra flavor.

I adapted the concept and added a few more spices to give this creamy stew an aromatic kick. 

Creamy coconut chicken and veggie stew -


  • 1 big can/2 cups coconut milk (thicker kind)
  • 1 chicken thigh steak (skin on, deboned)
  • 1 Asian eggplant (the long and thin kind)
  • 1 small broccoli
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 1 big shallot
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Tiny pinch white pepper powder
  • Some homemade chili sauce (optional)


Cut the chicken into large bite size pieces. Discard the eggplant stem and slice the remaining diagonally, about 2 mm thickness. Break the broccoli into smaller pieces, remove the tough fibrous layer if any. Chop the cabbage into large pieces. Discard the chili stems and finely chop the remaining. Peel and slice the shallot. 

Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil to a big pot and turn to medium high heat. Once it heats up, add in the chicken pieces, skin side down. Sear till the skin turns slightly browned, flip to the other side and sear for 1 minute. Scoop out the chicken and set aside for later use.

No need to add more oil to the pot since the skin fat has been rendered. Add in chopped shallot and 1 teaspoon of salt. 

Cook till the shallot turns translucent then add in the chilies. Add 1 teaspoon of fish sauce first if the pot needs to be deglazed to help in scraping out the browned bits on the bottom.

Add in the broccoli and give it a quick stir, about 2 minutes. Transfer the cabbage over and cook till the leaves have been wilted down by half.

It actually works well that the tougher broccoli is lying on the bottom while waiting for the above cabbage to be cooked through. The broccoli gets more heat and better help in softened the texture. 

Add in 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice and mix a little. Add in the eggplant slices. 

Season with ground fennel seeds, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and white pepper. Mix well.

Add the chicken back to the pot then pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to keep the stew at a slight bubble. Cover with lid and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or till the veggies reach preferred texture.

Drizzle some homemade chili sauce if desired. Serve with steamed white rice or French bread. 

Other Asian stew recipes:
Chinese style beef tendon and ox tail stew
Southeastern style pork stew using galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemon grass
Braised pork shoulder with Chinese aged Shao Hsing rice wine

Apr 16, 2015

Ikko Japanese Restaurant - Opens for Lunch Too!

Ikko is one of the well-known sushi joints in Orange County. However, this place seems to get more positive feedback for their hot dishes compared to sashimi and sushi.

Dinner service can be packed and reservation is highly recommended. Good news is that Ikko also opens for lunch from Tuesday to Friday offering sushi, a la carte, and even lunch set at a bargained price. 

Small restaurant with counter seating and a few table settings -

Asahi -

Take a look at the menu (click on the image for an enlarged view) -

Sushi menu and lunch special -

Rolls and nigiri are also available -

Noodles and sashimi bowls -

So many options to choose from -

Chirashi sets -

Even miso soup comes in five different varieties - 

Sake -

Salad that comes with the lunch set -

Bamboo shoot and fennel salad with herb flower and kimone dressing $10 -

Bamboo shoot provides a clean crunchy bite to the salad. Unlike western croutons or crisp bacon that carry a little grease, the non-oily and juicy bamboo shoot gives this salad a refreshing texture.

Uni chawamushi -

Sakura salmon cheek with spicy relish on top -

Kobe beef hambagu with miso demi-glace sauce lunch set $9.75 -

The set also comes with salad, miso soup, and pickled vegetables.

It's actually smaller than I expected but the sauce was seasoned well with a hint of peppery spice, goes really well with white rice -

I think ikko used leaner part of the Kobe beef -

Assorted sashimi lunch with pork and mixed vegetable miso soup, small appetizer, and rice $13.75 - 

Veggie lovers, this is one healthy and satisfying combo. 

Here is comes the nigiri -

Flying squid from Kyushu, Amberjack from Kyushu, yellowtail -

Not complaining at all, I was already happy enough to have Japan imported seafood for my weekday lunch.

Special chirashi set, comes with salad, miso soup, and pickles $25 -

Decent lunch place if you want to indulge a little during weekdays or weighing your options for a company meal. In addition, most of the better sushi restaurants only open for dinner, so ikko might be one of the very few non-Americanized Japanese eateries available around the area. Lucky OC dwellers.

Cindy's rating: 7 (higher score for ikko's non-sushi dishes)

Ikko Japanese Restaurant
735 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-7822

*Saturday and Sunday dinner only
*Closed on Monday

Apr 8, 2015

Pickled Small Gai Choy and Ground Pork Stir Fry - 雪裡紅炒豬肉

Pickled small gai choy or pickled cabbage is a simple preserved food using salt. The process of making it is fairly easy with little time involved. Basically clean the leafy greens and dry well. Rub with salt and squeeze out the liquid, let the veggie sits overnight and there you have it.

Gently rinse the pickled veggie, soak for few minutes, pat dry, and give it a fine chop before cooking. I also added some tofu skin for extra nutrients in this stir fry recipe.

Pickled small gai choy and ground pork stir fry -


  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1 cup/250 grams of pickled small gai choy
  • 1 big piece of fried tofu skin (the thick kind)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of oyster sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon of chili sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt


Use just a tiny bit of olive oil to "massage" the ground pork if using lean meat, this will help the pork stays tender during the cooking process.

Remove the pickled small gai choy from the packet -

Rinse gently, soak for few minutes to remove excess salt, pat dry, and chop into smaller pieces.

Peel and finely chop the garlic. Discard the chili stems and finely chop the remaining. Chop the tofu skin into tiny pieces -

Drizzle some olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan and turn to medium heat. Add in the garlic, chilies, and some salt. Cook till the garlicky aroma comes out but not burning them.

Switch to medium high heat and add in the ground pork, give it a quick stir. Pour in some oyster sauce for a touch of sweetness flavor, this can also be substitute with small amount of brown sugar. Add in some chili sauce if desired. 

Wait till the pork is about 80% cooked through then add in chopped pickled small gai choy and tofu skin. Mix well and cook till all the liquid has been reduced, about 2 more minutes.

Some people use sugar to balance off pickled veggies' acidity. However, I think the extra flavors from the semi-sweet oyster sauce can give more depth to this recipe. You be the judge.

Other Asian stir fry recipe:

Cauliflower and broccoli stir fry
PB salmon and veggies stir fry
Spicy stir fry with thick cut Matsuzaka pork and salted black beans
Simple Chinese stir fry using bamboo shoots and asparagus
Stir fry bamboo shoot cubes with marinated pork belly
Lamb stir fry with jalapeño, bean sprouts, and leek
Spicy chicken stir fry with salted black beans